In addition to a will, another important document that should be part of your estate plan is a living will. This legal document allows you to set forth directions about the use or non-use of artificial life sustaining support if you become “terminally ill” (an incurable and irreversible condition that will result in death regardless of treatment) or “permanently unconscious” (permanently unaware of yourself and your surroundings). Your living will becomes effective when you cannot communicate your wishes and two doctors who have examined you agree that your condition meets this classification.
Many of us remember the tragic saga of the Terri Schiavo case. In 1990, Mrs. Schaivo suffered massive brain damage following a cardiac arrest at her home. She was left comatose, and after two and a half months her diagnosis was changed to that of a persistent vegetative state. She did not have a living will. Mrs. Schiavo’s husband argued that she would not have wanted artificial life support, while Mrs. Schiavo’s parents did not agree and questioned the medical diagnosis. The ensuing legal battle spanned fifteen years and ended in 2005 with the removal of Mrs. Schiavo’s feeding tube and her death shortly after.
It is hard to say what Mrs. Schiavo’s wishes were in this situation. It is entirely possible that she did not want artificial life sustaining support; however, it is equally plausible that she did. Without a living will, her family was left to guess what she would have desired. A living will avoids the guess work and removes the burden from your family to make this difficult decision. To discuss creating a living will, contact Jesse Bowman at the law office of Alexander, Webb & Kinman (513-228-1100).
This information is intended to provide broad, general information about the law and is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from a licensed attorney.